The Heat Is Online

New South Wales Mired in 11-Month Drought

NSW Australia now 100 pct in drought - government

PlanetArk.org, Feb. 7, 2003

SYDNEY - The Australian state of New South Wales, which has been hit hardest by the country's 11-month lack of rain, was now 100 percent in drought, the state government said yesterday.

Despite recent rainfall in some areas, the state was now 99.6 percent in drought and 0.4 percent marginally in drought, said a statement from Premier Bob Carr said.

"The state has slipped further into drought, with virtually all of NSW now assessed as drought-affected, as the dry conditions spread further into the southeast corner," Carr said.

The marginal area of 2,729 square kilometres (1,054 sq mile) was rapidly deteriorating with hot and windy conditions, he said.

The last time the entire state was in drought was in 1994/95. This time around, though, the drought was drier, hotter and had had more evaporation than any other dry period, the NSW agriculture department said.

This made it the worst drought recorded in NSW, Carr said.

The longest continuous drought in NSW was in the seven years between 1898 and 1905.

Carr announced a further A$28 million (US$16.6 million) drought package.

Federal Agriculture Minister Warren Truss yesterday also extended exceptional circumstances assistance to dairy farmers in southern NSW and adjoining northern Victoria state.

This would give the state's dairy farmers a financial and morale boost, the NSW Farmers Association said.

DIRE SITUATION

"The situation is dire and there are some parts of NSW that haven't had a good soaking rain in more than two years," Carr said in the statement.

New year rainfall boosted water supplies and generated some pasture growrth, as well as providing moisture for the sowing of some summer crops, he said.

"However, the extremely hot and windy conditions during January have limited growth and a significant proportion of these crops has already failed," the premier said.

Extraordinary high temperatures and strong winds across all of the state had further pressured water supplies, he said.

This, combined with a lack of available feed, was causing severe problems with livestock. Many properties had de-stocked or would de-stock in the next month if rainfall was not received.

Serious bushfires, particularly in the southeast of the state, had further reduced feed supplies, Carr also said. A long-range rainfall outlook model provided some hope for rainfall in coming months, he said.

Models currently showed a range of scenarios through the breakdown of the drought-inducing El Nino weather effect. The majority indicated a probability of greater than average rainfall for the next three months, he said.

REUTERS NEWS SERVICE